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Whitby Calla Beck Sculpture Trail

Creation of a sculpture trail at Calla Beck.

Stone Sculptor Vivien Mousdell and Wood Sculptor Stephen Iredale were selected by the Calla Beck Conservation Group as lead artists to deliver a series of art works to make a sculpture trail at Calla Beck.

Vivien and Steve carried out extensive research including a series of workshops and activities with local people to develop ideas for the sculpture trail. They worked with local historian John Gaskin and with primary school children from East Whitby School, with Whitby Natural History Society, Whitby Archives and with the Calla Beck Conservation Group and individual residents to come up with a range of ideas for the sculpture trail.

Two main areas of interest were identified, the wild creatures which inhabit Calla Beck and the games that generations of children have played down the Calla Beck. The consultation process fed into school workshops generating ideas, text and imagery.

During site visits with the East Whitby school pupils and John Gaskin the children mapped and named features, observations and ideas, writing poetry in direct response to their surroundings. This was followed up with two classroom workshops where poetry was written in response to memories and impressions. In these session drawings of the children’s silhouettes were initiated. In one final workshop with the children photographs of the group silhouettes were taken and their accounts of games played at Calla Beck were recorded.

In addition to these planned meetings there were numerous informal encounters with local residents & children. These encounters formed a valuable part of the residency & consequently the artists decided to work on site whenever possible for the duration of the project in order to maximise their visibility & accessibility to the community.

The next phase was to develop design proposals for consultation with the Calla Beck Conservation Group based on the research & community input.

These ideas, supported by drawings, were presented to the Calla Beck group who agreed a programme of works to be completed by each artist. Stephen was to produce a range of wood carvings based on local wildlife whilst Vivien was to create stone carvings utilising poetry written with local school children and also a large scale art work depicting silhouette images of children playing.

These schemes were chosen to allow full scope for the artists’ complementary skills and the indigenous materials they employ. Both artists have worked throughout the summer and autumn and into the winter to produce a comprehensive range of sculptural works.

The idea of the Owl proved to be popular, so as a way of linking the many paths which make up the 'Calla' it was decided to repeat the owl image throughout, providing path markers and visual link, unifying the site. The aim was also to reflect the idea of a game with the owls, visitors to the site having to explore the whole place to find them all (10 altogether). Having installed the owls they also give the impression of being guardians of the site 'wherever you walk, you are watched by an owl'. Further popular images were the Heron, the Frog, the Fish seat and the Fern. The idea of the Fern was to have something larger than life which would complement Vivien's entrance sign at the Spital Bridge end of the Calla which itself incorporates the image of the fern.

It was decided to concentrate the remaining images around the pond, being the main focal area of the site. The two Frogs face each other across the pond providing low stable climbing for small children, these are overlooked by the Heron which it was thought might act as a deterrent to the real Herons which frequently come to fish the pond.

The remaining carving is the Fish seat which overlooks the Calla Beck below the pond area. This is a relief carving of fish within a current, the idea being to reflect the water course below, which, when in full spate becomes a torrent. As with the Frogs this also provides low, stable climbing for small children.

Utilising the process of stone carvings Vivien has developed a Poetry walk along the new path beside the Calla Beck which consists of six stone boulders each carved with a verse celebrating the games & adventures of children that have played down Calla Beck throughout the generations.

In addition there are two large gateway signs carved into natural stone at the lower & upper entrances to the area. Silhouettes of children playing have been carved into the stones of a large, newly constructed retaining wall.

Delays in the construction of the lower path and retaining wall & therefore access of large stones & logs meant that the artists were unable to start working on site until late summer /autumn.

Careful consideration was given to the siting of lettered stones & wood sculptures so that they flow from one to the other, drawing the viewers gaze & curiosity onwards & so encouraging maximum exploration of Calla Beck as in a game of hide & seek.

On 1st October the sculpture trail was launched with a well publicised & attended open day at which Steve demonstrated Chain saw sculpture & Vivien led a family woodcarving workshop.